When we neared the Bengal Tiger exhibit, a docent informed us that she was pacing the fence because she knew that it was almost lunchtime. She and the male tiger had come from San Diego Zoo, and the Chaffee Zoo hoped that the tigers would produce a litter soon.
Prairie dogs of North America!
Overall, we had a blast at this zoo. Admission was only $7.00 for adults and children (2-11) and seniors (over 62, I think) were only $3.50. They also have a rotary playground next door as well as a storybook land, both of which we did not go to because the weather turned, but they both seemed sweet and enjoyable.
Before heading home, we visited at the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno. We had stopped at "the best kept secret in Fresno" before, but it was closed. This time, it was open and we promptly signed on for a tour.
Here's the basic story:
Baldassare Forestiere, the second oldest son in the family, was denied property by his father (it traditionally going to the first-born son), but Baldassare had a dream of owning a citrus empire. He moved, by himself, to America in the early 1900s, dug tunnels in Boston for his first job, and eventually moved out to California to start his citrus farm. Property in Orange County was too pricey, but there were unbelievable deals in the Central Valley; therefore, he purchased 80 acres of land in Fresno, Ca, and got to work on his lifelong dream.
But, once he ran a shovel into the ground, he struck hardpan soil, a rock-infested soil that his trees would definitely not be able to grow in. Even though he was disappointed, his dream crushed, he tried to make the best of the situation. Once summer arrived, he met with the suffocating 100 degree heat of the summertime and sought a way to escape it.
He dug tunnels. Lots of them.
He made himself a network of underground tunnels in which to live, hide from the heat, and host small gatherings of friends with the hopes of eventually turning the property into a resort. He began experimenting with plants underground, using the soil he had extracted from the uppermost hardpan soil. The hardpan itself he used to build strong walls and ceilings.
What is there now is an intricate tunnel system with beautiful trees reaching for the surface, a cool getaway from the shine and heat of the sun, and relics to this innovative man's 40-year labor of love.
*Disclaimer: All pictures taken are property of Forestiere Underground Gardens and my own personal pictures of the property. They are not used for commercial purposes but rather to report on our field trip.*
Aidyn, his grandma, and I waiting on a bench above ground.
Here is Aidyn in the Trinity Courtyard, below the surface.
Beautiful home-style touches.
Aidyn, sitting on a planter, ready to descend into the dark tunnel in the background.
Baldassare even put a bathtub outside!
A second bed, for guests, presumably.
A gorgeous view of one of the open ceilings. Even though Baldassare was technically underground and enjoying the cooler temperatures, he could still enjoy the sunlight.
Heading out of a tunnel and back to civilization.
While at first I was a bit shocked at the $15 price of admission, the tour was worth every penny. We had a jovial and informative tour guide who was obviously passionate about Baldassare Forestier's story and life's work. Seeing this man's creation and walking through his tunnels is inspiring; it teaches us to be flexible with our dreams and work hard to develop our passion. This little gem is often missed as people coast by on highway 99, with only a small historical landmark sign mentioning its existence. But it is worth the turn off Shaw Avenue and the admission cost.